Academic performance is not adversely affected by type 1 diabetes in young people, although girls with diabetes may be less likely to complete high school than their peers without diabetes, Australian research shows.
A retrospective study of 833 young people aged ≤18 years hospitalised with T1D in New South Wales between January 2005 and December 2018 compared NAPLAN results in primary (years 3 and 5) and high school (years 7 and 9) with healthy counterparts.
Similar rates were seen for achieving the national minimum standard (NMS) for reading and numeracy in males and females hospitalised with type 1 diabetes and their age and sex matched peers without diabetes.
There were also no significant differences between parental education or occupation for young people with T1D and their matched peers in each school grade.
Young females hospitalised with T1D showed no difference in completion of year 10, but had a higher risk for not completing year 11 (ARR: 1.73; 95%CI 1.19-2.53) or year 12 (ARR: 1.65; 95%CI 1.17-2.33) compared to their matched peers.
There was no difference in high school completion between young males with and without diabetes.
Published in Paediatric Diabetes, the study authors said the findings were consistent with many other studies although there have been mixed results.
“While T1D has been shown in previous research to negatively affect facets of academic skill development, the current study found no discernible difference in academic performance compared to matched peers,” they wrote.
“It is also likely that significant advances in treatment regimens and modalities, as well as the increased availability of diabetes insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technologies, which have been associated with improved outcomes in severe hypoglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis, as well as overall diabetes control, have improved T1D outcomes and subsequently reduced the potential for negative consequences of T1D on student academic performance.”
However, the study authors cautioned that it was also possible that annual standardised school assessments, such as NAPLAN, may not adequately capture everyday difficulties experienced by young people with T1D in the school environment.
The researchers said the impact on school completion in girls with type 1 diabetes may be related to females having more issues with metabolic control, distress and eating disorders than males.
“For females with T1D, transitioning from childhood to adolescence may have wider psychosocial implications that contribute to young females having higher risk of early school leaving,” they wrote.
“The additional psychological distress and a higher prevalence of eating disorders among young people with T1D attests to the need for regular psychological screening of young people with T1D.”